Transforming Marriages Part 2

Ephesians 5.22-33

The Bible begins and ends with a wedding…Jesus’ first miracle is at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. God takes marriage seriously. So should we.

Our culture would have us believe that the goal of marriage is happily ever after. If your spouse isn’t doing that for you, then by all means, find someone who will. If the frog doesn’t turn into a prince, try another frog. If the princess stops looking like a princess, then find someone else who does. It’s about my needs and what I want. Self is king. No marriage can survive that…Christian or otherwise.

Marriages are in crisis. That’s not just out there, but right here within the body as well. There seems to be an epidemic of folks who should know better, who are making decisions that are destroying their families. Guys, you can not be complacent in your marriage…you can’t be passive. And you also can’t treat your wife like she’s your slave. God will hold you accountable for your marriage. It’s your responsibility to lead. Find out what’s causing tension in your relationship and do what you need to to fix it. Stop acting like a victim, and be a man. Be careful little eyes what you see…as guys we are captivated or captured by what our eyes see. Get a handle on it. It starts with your relationship with Jesus. Be an example to your wife of one who is pursuing a vibrant faith.

Gals, cultivate your marriage. Pay attention to your husband. Look at your own heart and not just at what’s wrong with him. Don’t try to change him…trust God to make the changes He needs to. Be prayerful, and lean into the Lord when your husband disappoints you. Treat him the way you hope your future daughter-in-law will someday treat your own son. Be careful little mouth what you say…no matter how big and strong you may think your husband is, your words hurt him. When you belittle him and criticize him, you destroy him. Use your words to build him up and encourage him, to strengthen him and respect him. Choose obedience and living in God’s will over anything else, even if that means your marriage isn’t necessarily “happily ever after”.

Divorce may seem like the only option, but the relief it gives is only temporary. In the long run it takes its toll because ultimately God designed marriage to be a covenant that lasts forever. Obedience to God despite the circumstances, part of what Peter calls, “suffering for the sake of righteousness” (1 Peter 3.14) actually leads to blessing. Why? Because doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because I feel like it or the other person deserves it…is a picture of what Jesus did for us. When I say “yes” to who God calls me to be as a husband, then I have to trust Him even if my wife is saying “no”.

But what if my spouse has been unfaithful? Infidelity in a marriage is a big deal. It violates the covenant that the husband and wife make before God… “forsaking all others, to cling only to them…” It corrupts the “oneness” that a husband and his wife are called to. And while there may be allowance for divorce in the case of unfaithfulness, the greater and higher call is to forgiveness and reconciliation. I believe that God wants to restore broken marriages…but both must be willing to walk that long and difficult road together. That begins with repentance and a real brokenness over our sinfulness and selfishness. It might mean getting help…seeing a counselor or going to a program like Celebrate Recovery.

If you have already experienced the devastating effects of divorce, don’t lose heart. God’s faithfulness never changes. Pursue your relationship with Him and make Him your first priority. He can and will use you to impact the kingdom in significant ways just has He has countless others who have experienced the painful realities of life this side of the garden.

The only hope we have for a successful marriage is Jesus…only He can transform us through the Spirit to live and love like Him. Only He can give us an eternal perspective on life and a compelling reason to invest everything in the kingdom. It’s only when I’m pursuing Him in earnest, that I will even have the desire to love my wife well. It’s only when she is pursuing Him the same way that she will have the desire to submit to me. If each of us is committed to being a godly spouse, we will have a godly marriage. Doesn’t mean we won’t have challenges…that’s part of life outside the garden, but it means that we are committed to seeing it through until death do us part.

Husbands, is your wife more like Jesus because of you? Wives, is your husband, more like Jesus because of you?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series: Transforming Marriages. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Transforming Marriages Part 1

Ephesians 5.15-21

Following Jesus is not just a one-time decision…not just the choice I make to trust in Him for eternal life. Following Jesus is a choice I have to make on a daily, even moment-by-moment, basis. It takes intentionality and a willingness to say “yes” to the Spirit as He guides and directs my steps.

When you trusted in Jesus, you were adopted into His family. Your allegiance has changed. You are now a son or daughter of the King. How has that impacted the way you live your life? Because it has to impact your life. I’ve said it before, but Jesus didn’t save you to go to heaven. If He did, you would already be there. Jesus saved you to radically transform you. To completely change you. To make you brand new. To make you like Him.

Are you still looking at the world from an earthly perspective, or are you beginning to see your life through God’s eyes? Beginning because it’s a process…it takes time to cultivate a perspective on life. Are you looking for opportunities to make kingdom investments in the lives of those around you? Are you living for the moment or for eternity?

The goal of the Christian life is conformity to the image of Jesus. So day by day, moment by moment the Spirit is at work…He’s working to transform us to live and love like Jesus. The more we say “yes” to Him, the greater the transformation. The more we tell Him “no”, the more stunted we become spiritually. With every “yes” our perspective changes…we see the world through His eyes and understand His will for us a little bit more. With every “no” we continue to focus on our circumstances and are more confused about what God wants from us and for us. “Yes” leads to an others or outward focus. “No”…it’s all about me.

So how do I start saying “yes” to the Spirit? It starts with prayer and asking for His direction. To stop in any and every circumstance and ask for wisdom. But know that it must include time spent in the Word…otherwise, how will I know if I’m the Spirit or my own selfish desires. The Spirit’s direction will never contradict God’s Word. So knowing God’s Word is imperative. We have to learn to think differently. We are influenced by what we allow in…the things we read, watch, listen to. The more we engage whatever that is, the more it influences us. How much time are you spending allowing God’s Word to influence you? Reading, meditating, memorizing, listening to, etc.? It doesn’t just happen…we have to be intentional. We have to have a plan both to pray and to spend time in the Word.

And following Jesus is not a solo gig…it’s a group project. It’s something we do together. It’s not enough for one of us to follow Jesus well. Paul says the job’s not done “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” So part of saying “yes” to the Spirit includes time spend with other believers. Being filled by the Spirit results in a lot of singing and thanksgiving and serving one another.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. He invites you to be a part of His family…just have to recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance, that Jesus can save you and then trust Him to do so. Then you too can be a son or daughter of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series: Transforming Marriages. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Emmaus Road

Luke 24.13-35

Two men on a journey struggle with what Jesus’ death means for them. Was He just a prophet, or was He in fact the Messiah that they had been so long waiting for? If He was the Messiah, how could He die? What about the kingdom He promised? Then Jesus shows up and explains using the Scriptures that suffering before glory had always been God’s plan for His Messiah. Only the Innocent could die for the guilty…only the blood of the Passover Lamb could cover the sins of the people.

Often we too can have an incomplete view of who Jesus is. We like the reigning part, we don’t like the suffering part. We’re happy for Him to be our Savior, but we don’t really want Him to tell us what to do. And we really don’t want Him to change us. If He’ll save us and let us live our lives, we’re good. But Jesus didn’t come just to save us. He came to radically transform us. He came to completely change us. He came to make us like Him. Totally brand new. If we have trusted in Jesus, Paul says we are new creations…the old is gone and the new is here. Problem is…we want to hang on to the old. We like being the main character in our story…we like things being all about us. But following Jesus means that He is the main Character in our story. He is our King, and He is the One who brings purpose and meaning to our lives. He has earned the right to tell us what to do…not only did He create us (that would be enough), but He also saved us. We owe everything to Him. Good news is: He’s a benevolent King who desires our good. But we will only know that as we get to know Him through His Word and prayer and fellowship with other believers.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, make today the day. He has gone to incredible lengths to rescue you and to prove His love for you. He invites you to be a part of His kingdom.

Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Investing in the Kingdom

Luke 19.12-27

Jesus is going away to receive His kingdom which He will establish upon His return. As His followers, we are commanded to carry out Jesus’ mission until He comes back…seeking and saving the lost. For the faithful, His return will be a time of rejoicing and celebration, but for the unfaithful and for the those who reject Him it will be a time of judgment.

We’re not told, but I have to believe that the first two slaves are not surprised by the response of the King at His return. I believe they know Him to be gracious and compassionate and generous. That’s what frees them up to operate from a place of confidence and courage rather than from a place of fear. There’s an excitement on their part to serve the Master and to take huge risks for the sake of the kingdom. And just like these two slaves, Jesus invites us into an ever-deepening experience of contentment, joy and confidence in our everyday lives with Him. He wants us to serve Him with joy and excitement and not fear. He wants us to get to know Him better through His Word and time spent with Him in prayer and in fellowship with other believers. Each of us has been entrusted with a mina…the gospel…the word of the King. And each of us is responsible for how we invest it…boldly, courageously, fearlessly, intentionally taking big risks for the kingdom.

The third slave, the other slave, did not invest in the kingdom. Instead of seeing the King as generous and compassionate and gracious, he saw the King as stingy and selfish and greedy. He did not know the King, and he did not trust the King, so what he had was taken away. So is the third slave in the kingdom? Can you be in the kingdom if you don’t know the King? Is it possible that there are those who think they’re in the kingdom for whatever reason, but will find themselves on the outside because they didn’t know the King? Folks who are relying on their good works or church attendance or status in the community or relationships…who like Judas who was one of the twelve, but really wasn’t one of the twelve…but do not really know the King?

Do you know the King? Do you know Him as gracious and compassionate and generous? Do you believe that He cares about you and your circumstances? Do you know that He loves you? If you know the King, how are you investing in the kingdom? How are you using your resources…your time, your gifts, your finances…to further Jesus’ mission? Are you being intentional about sharing the gospel with folks on your impact list? Are you eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return? Do you know the King?

Jesus is coming back. He will either be your King or your Judge. Which will it be for you? If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. Recognize your need for repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you and trust Him to do so. Then you too can hear, “Well done, good slave…” and share with Him in His kingdom reign.

Let’s pray.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Thy Kingdom Come

Luke 17.22-37

Jesus is coming back…it will be a glorious day for those who are ready, for those who have trusted in Him. But for those who are not, then like the days of Noah and Lot, it will be a day of sudden, unexpected, final judgment.

Clearly there is a warning here for those who have not yet trusted in Jesus…do so before it’s too late. Recognize that you are a sinner in need of repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you. Trust Him to do so. Then you too can have a future secured in the kingdom. No need to fear the coming judgment. Jesus will be your King, not your Judge. Strength for today, hope for tomorrow.

But I do think there is a warning here also for those of us who claim to follow Jesus. Here is where the example of Lot is instructive. Noah is clearly a righteous man…clear from the Genesis account. Lot on the other hand…not quite as clear. His choices and actions leave a big question mark…especially when he ends up in Sodom as one of the elders of the city. Even though he’s a man of influence in the city, it’s clear as the story unfolds that he’s had zero spiritual impact on folks around him, including his wife. Abraham thought for sure at least there would be 10 righteous in the city after Lot’s tenure there. When the dust settles, we only know for sure that Lot is based on what Peter has to say (2 Peter 2.6-8). Without the mention of Lot being a righteous man living in Sodom…righteous soul being tormented day after day by their lawless deeds…not sure that we could make that call.

What was the difference between Lot and his wife? What would their friends have thought of them? My guess is…there was no noticeable difference. Lot and his wife looked the same on the outside…eating and drinking…going through the everyday rhythms of life with no thought of the kingdom, but one was saved and the other destroyed. Lot is a believer who cared more about his stuff or the things of this world than he did the kingdom…like the soil with the weeds, he bore no fruit to maturity. Don’t be like Lot. If you’ve trusted in Jesus, know that you were not saved to go to heaven. Otherwise you would already be there. You were saved to be a part of God’s rescue mission…to make an impact on the kingdom…to share the good news of salvation through Jesus with a lost and dying world…to storm the gates of hell…to live a dangerous life…a life worthy of the calling.

How do we not be like Lot? How do we avoid the trap of simply “eating and drinking”, going through the everyday rhythms of life with no thought of the kingdom? How do we ensure that folks are not surprised when they find out we are followers of Jesus? We have to be intentional. We have to be intentional about pursuing our relationship with Jesus through time spent with Him in His Word and prayer. We have to be intentional about spending time with other believers. We have to be intentional with those who don’t know Jesus around us. This is where our impact list comes in. It’s a tool that helps us to be intentional with bringing 1 person at a time closer to Jesus. All of which is possible because of the Spirit’s work in and through us. I love this quote from Tozer, “The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from what direction the danger will come.” May that be true of us.

Jesus is coming back soon…are you ready?

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Counting the Cost

Luke 14.25-35

Salvation is completely free, but discipleship is costly. Our allegiance to Jesus must be far greater than our allegiance to our family or to our own self-interests. We have to love God more! Therefore, each of us must count the cost carefully before choosing to follow Him. Just as unsalty salt is useless, so a disciple who isn’t all in with Jesus is useless to the kingdom of God.

Very sobering words, but Jesus doesn’t save us just so we can go to heaven. He saves us so that we can join Him in His mission to rescue a lost dying world. It reminds me of a scene from the movie, Hacksaw Ridge, where Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector serving as an army medic in Okinawa during one of the bloodiest battles of WWII, after spending all day and most of the night single-handedly evacuating the wounded from the battlefield, prays and asks God, “Just give me one more.” And after that one, “Just give me one more.” And again, “Just give me one more…” Doss saved 75 men. That’s what we’re called to do as believers…to storm the gates of hell and ask God to help us rescue just one more. In the strongest possible terms Jesus invites us to make our lives count for eternity. He wants us to make a kingdom impact on those around us who don’t know Him.

Earlier we talked about the questions that we would ask before making an investment…What’s the cost? Do I have the resources to pull it off? Will it be worth it in the end? When it comes to discipleship…What’s the cost? Everything. Do you have the resources? Yes…the Father has given us the Spirit. The Spirit is the One who transforms us to live and love like Jesus. He empowers us to do what Jesus asks us to do. He gives us the ability and the want-to to love God more. Will it be worth it? Absolutely…the Father also gives us the kingdom. And the kingdom is everything. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, The Cost of Discipleship said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.” It’s about loving God more. I like that.

When we put Jesus first…when we love God more, it benefits all of our relationships…we love better, we serve better, we reflect Him better.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, let me urge you to do so today. He invites you to enjoy life with Him in His kingdom. You need only to respond…acknowledge your need to be rescued, your need for repentance, believe that Jesus can rescue you and trust in Him to do so. Then begins the adventure of your lifetime. Don’t wait.

Until next time…stay salty.

“Let’s love God more this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our latest mini-series in the book of Luke, Life, Death and the Pursuit of Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

A Dangerous Idea of Blessedness

Matthew 5.1-12

Let’s be honest…Jesus’ idea of blessedness doesn’t fit the ideal of the American dream. Those He lists as blessed are not necessarily the folks we would have picked. He doesn’t list the courageous, the wise, the popular, or the just. Not the the agreeable, the funny, the intelligent, the attractive, or the “it” kind of folks. It’s not the spiritually elite, the I’ve-got-it-all-together crowd, the my-universe-is-running-just-fine-thank-you crew. No…the blessed are those who recognize their desperate need for God and long for the reconciliation of heaven and earth…the kingdom belongs to them.

Welcome to the strange world and wisdom of Jesus. Welcome to His narrow-gate theology that separates the “crowds” who want it all…health and wealth…right now and the “disciples” who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Him (cf. 5:1). Welcome to what it means to be “blessed” according to Jesus.

Choosing to follow Jesus…to be a kingdom citizen…is a dangerous proposition that will put you at odds with the kingdoms of this world. Why? Because when you choose to follow Jesus, you begin to live and love like Him. You start to embody kingdom characteristics. The difference in you is going to be obvious to folks around you. You will stand out like a light shining in a dark place. By doing that…by embodying these qualities and living this way, you are bearing the image of God brightly. Pointing people to Him and bringing Him glory. Said another way, if your life reflects the beatitudes, you will force a response from those around you. Some will persecute you and others with give glory to the Father. Both are good things!

So how “blessed” are you? Do you recognize your desperate need for God? Do you mourn over your sin and the brokenness of this world? Do you have a hunger and thirst for God and the things of God? Are you showing the same kind of mercy towards others that you want God to show you? Are you actively pursuing peace with others?

As I said earlier, we never outgrow our need for Jesus. We’re all broken…even those of us who have trusted in Him. One day we will experience complete freedom from sin, but until that day we’re still in process. As Luther put it, “We are saved…we’re being saved…and we will be saved.” We are all addicted to sin…we all have hurts, habits and hang ups that keep us from experiencing the life that God intended for us. But again somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that only the really, really, really broken people need help. You know, those who need Jesus more than we do. But the truth is, we all need help. That’s why the picture of the church as a hospital is so powerful. We all need spiritual healing. And we need each other to help each other to experience it. That doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not involved in the process. There is no spiritual transformation…there is no spiritual progress…we can not live and love like Jesus apart from the Spirit’s work in our lives. But as I’ve said it before, discipleship is a group project…it’s a team sport. We’re in it together. Success is not one person crossing the finish line, but “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4.13)

That’s what Celebrate Recovery is all about…about taking off our masks and being real about our brokenness, about bearing one another’s burdens, about encouraging each other to pursue Jesus, about spiritual and emotional healing. It’s a way of discipleship…a step by step process to overcome hurts, habits and hang ups. Now’s a great time to get involved…new year/new you…new opportunity to pursue Jesus.

Jesus’ definition of blessedness is dangerous…but it is true blessedness. It’ living life in the kingdom now. It’s being image-bearers of the King.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we live as kingdom citizens…as those whom the King calls blessed.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Celebrate Recovery series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster